“You are not on the shortlist.” Many students who want to get scholarships may not have succeeded in getting one. I also failed to get a fellowship several times. In 2013, in one semester, I was denied a total of three types of scholarships from KOSAF (Korea Student Aid Foundation), and a school scholarship. I used to get 1.5 million won every semester from KOSAF. My mother started working six months ago. In most modern middle-class families, both parents must work to cover all the family’s expenses, including the children’s tuition fees, and my parents are working, too. The fact that my parents are working could be the reason that I wasn’t able to get a scholarship this spring semester. There are two college students in my family, and the total school fee for one semester is eight million won (16 million won for a year!). My mother’s monthly pay is about one million won. It doesn’t make sense for me to give up the bigger option (scholarship) so as to obtain the smaller option (wage). I spent much of my time and made every effort to get a scholarship before this semester began. Then I thought to myself, “Is the scholarship system going in the right direction? Doesn’t it have any kind of problem?”
KOSAF’s government-sponsored state scholarship was launched last year to ease the tuition burden of college students and their families. Some people said that the program might have a lot of problems because it was just an alternative to the original plan of cutting the college tuition in half. KOSAF provides various types of scholarships and is still adding new types. The most common state scholarship types of KOSAF are types I and II. Every student can apply for either type. The type I recipients are chosen based on their household income levels and grades. A student must have an average grade of B or higher to qualify for this type of scholarship. Type II, on the other hand, is operated through a matching fund method. Through this method, KOSAF allots tuition support to a university depending on its efforts to cut its tuition or to expand its scholarships. Then each university selects scholars who meet the criteria defined in their scholarship policy.
According to KOSAF, 84.5% of the applicants for state scholarship type I failed as their grades were not up to snuff. What’s notable, though, is the ratio of dropouts: 19.1% of the dropouts were “welfariats,” and 15.1% were those who belong to the 10th income level. “Welfariat” is a compound word of welfare and proletariat and refers to the first income level. For reference, all the students were divided into eight groups based on their families’ income levels. The higher the income of a student’s family was, the higher their grade. Anyway, this means that the students who are worse off and who are in dire need of aid couldn’t receive the scholarship. It is not easy for them to consistently get a grade above B while running a household or having a part-time job. It looks like the scholarship system is yelling at the students, “Study much harder or get to work!”
Allocating scholarships based on the income level, like state scholarship type I, has several innate problems. The standard of KOSAF’s income level classification is only the health insurance premium. KOSAF is unconcerned about liabilities like housing mortgage or bank loans. Even if a student’s family has many other properties, such as stocks or bonds, the student can receive a scholarship if the family’s insurance premium is confirmed to be low. There have been many dishonest acts, such as understating the family’s real income. I know that conducting a thorough investigation into a family’s income level is not possible, but it is necessary to gradually reorganize or modify the criteria.
The current scholarship policies have several other aspects that need to be improved. The first aspect that needs improvement is related to multichildren families. Multichildren families can get a chance and can be put above families without children when choosing a scholarship recipient. What’s most important, however, should not be “how many people there are in the family” but “how many university students there are in the family.” For instance, take a family with two children and another family with three children, with similar income levels. One family has two university students out of three children, and the other only one. Is it reasonable for them to be treated as belonging to the same level? Maybe it’s not.
The second thing that has much to be desired is the application period. All scholarships have their own variable application times. Take a student, for example, whose tuition fees amount to 4 million won. If the student obtained a nearly-2-million-won scholarship, he can’t be on the shortlist of another 2.2-million-won scholarship. There is a limit to the amount of scholarships that a student can receive, and the limit range is within our tuition fees. If every scholarship foundation will try to quadrate its selection period and presentation date, students will not have to give up a larger scholarship on account of a smaller one that they previously received.